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Archive for August, 2013

Yesterday evening, Bart captured this remarkable moment as we were driving:

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I can’t believe I have one hundred thousand miles on my car now. Except for a few dings on the outside, it mostly still feels new to me. It’s still running well; it just needs an oil change and a routine checkup. Here’s to more new adventures and a few more thousand miles before I need another one.

I’ve been down quite a few roads in my life the last seven years/100,000 miles. When we drove off the lot with our brand new peppy blue car, Bart and I would never have imagined where we’d be today. I can only begin to imagine where the next hundred thousand will take us.

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Just a couple of miles down the road from me, thousands will be commemorating the event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Being so close to the very heartbeat of our nation is one of the most fascinating parts of living here.

There is a lot to say about the subject of equality and justice, especially in light of many things happening in recent weeks and months in our nation, but how could I say it better than Dr. King himself? Therefore, I am posting the transcript of his original speech. I encourage you to read it, probably for the first time, as it was mine when I read it today.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

Dr. King, 28 August 1963
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Well, we’ve only lived in Montgomery County, Maryland, for nine months, but they have already called upon both of the Taylors to report for jury duty.

They got to Bart first a few months ago, but never fear: I was to get my turn not long after. I received my summons a few weeks ago and had to report last Thursday.

Though they claim jury duty is randomly assigned, it feels like Bart and I have a “pick me” sign on our backs, as we’ve both been called here and back in Colorado. In fact, we both got called on the same day in Boulder…and it just happened to be the week before we were headed to Hawaii. Fortunately, we weren’t called on for the jury and made it on our trip just fine.

MoCo has a one day/one trial policy–if you get called on, you only have to go one day; if you are selected for a jury, you only serve for that one trial. After that, you are guaranteed not to be put into the pool again for something like five years. At least it’s minimally invasive, even if it is an inconvenience in the first place. And it’s great to know we’re both off the hook for a while as far as our civic duty is concerned…except that we may be buying a house in another county and therefore immediately eligible again. Huzzah.

Neither Bart nor I ultimately served on a jury this time. We both waited but were dismissed when no jury trials came up that day. I didn’t even have to report until 1:00 pm, so I really only waited in the room about 3 hours until I was free to go. While it would be kind of inconvenient to be on a jury, it might be kind of interesting, as long as it wasn’t some horrible murder trial. I’m still glad we haven’t had to do it so far.

Whenever I think of jury duty, I think of the OC Supertones. A little ska, ska, ska helps put things into perspective…at least my day wasn’t as bad as his. ūüėČ

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My very astute readers were able to correctly discern from my recent post that our first Craigslist purchase here in DC was, in fact, a juicer.

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It is a Breville Juice Fountain multi speed (BJE510XL, sometimes called “Ikon”). You can purchase these from many retailers for $199, but we were excited to find one brand new in the box for $100. I have to say that finding huge discounts on brand new appliances has been one of our greatest successes on Craigslist. My favorite purchase of all time was my Blendtec blender, which normally retails for about $400-450 but I got for $250 new in the box. While I’ll mention my blender again in this post, I’ll largely be describing my new juicer today.

In the past, we didn’t give much thought to what we ate as far as nutrition. But over the years we’ve become more aware and informed about our food choices and have slowly transitioned out diet to be healthier–i.e. more fruits and veggies and made-from-scratch and less processed foods and sweets. Don’t mistake me: we absolutely still enjoy tasty treats now and again (and maybe too often sometimes ūüėČ )and I don’t micromanage every meal, but my goal is to make our day-to-day fare ever more nutritious and fresh.

Unfortunately, while I know veggies are good for me, I confess that I don’t like a huge variety of them. I’ve gotten better over the years, but some tastes just never quite grow on you. I also run out of ideas for how to cook the same old veggies we do eat. Three years ago,¬†I began making green smoothies as a way to get the benefits of green veggies hidden in a yummy blended fruit mixture. I have one every day for breakfast, hence investing in a specialty blender a couple of years ago; almost seven hundred blends later, it’s been worth its weight in gold.

Around that time,¬†Bart and I also looked into juicing. I even purchased a masticating, or slow grinding, juicer (off Craigslist, naturally). It worked great, and the juices were tasty. But I decided I ultimately preferred smoothies, and I eventually resold the juicer (on Craigslist) to fund my blender. However, we’ve recently discussed how we could get more veggies into our diet, and¬†our thoughts turned back to juices as a way of getting the nutrition of a variety if fruits and veggies in a tasty, easy to consume form. After doing a little more research and taking what we learned from our previous experiment, we decided to give it a try again. Hence out recent purchase of the Breville.

The Breville juice fountain is a centrifugal juicer, which is a different kind than the one we had before. While the slow one essentially mashed juice out slowly, the centrifugal models shred at very high speeds. This kind by nature doesn’t extract quite as much juice and isn’t as good with greens; however, this time we felt that ease of use and cost (masticating models are generally pricier) made it a good choice for us.

We’ve had it a couple of days now, and so far we’re pleased with it. For a centrifugal juicer, it performs very well. This particular model has a variable speed adjustment, so you can set the speed based on the hardness of what you’re juicing.

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It also has a three inch wide feed tube, which can fit the vast majority of items without having to cut them up. I have found a few apples to be a little wide for it so far, but most of them fit right through.

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If you’re going to juice, you need stuff to pulverize! This is my haul from Safeway yesterday (and we bought about this much again from Sam’s the day before).

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I made myself a juice this morning consisting of two apples, half a lemon, a few grapes, and a few fistfuls of kale and spinach.

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You can see the small relative size of greens to fruit juice here, but I think I can improve the yield by refining my technique.

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And here’s the final product all mixed together and served in a mason jar (how else would you serve up a beverage for a photo on the internet?). I find that I like my juices over ice to make it cool and dilute it a little; some flavors, like grapes and celery, can be very strong. However, drinking it straight up is totally legit, too.

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Bart and I have enjoyed our new juicer so far and give it a thumbs up. I’ll share any further insights or delicious recipes in the future. Bottoms up!

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Sometimes the house hunt gets frustrating and discouraging. In order to stay grounded and keep a positive perspective on life, it’s good to maintain a healthy sense of humor and not take real estate too seriously. Therefore, I’ve decided to share the best of real estate jargon and the real meaning behind the listings. If you are now or recently have been in the market, I’m sure you will relate.
  • Meticulously maintained: museum-like curation of original 1970’s or 80’s hardware, fixtures, and decor.
  • Gourmet kitchen: granite countertops on 40-year-old cabinets.
  • Country kitchen:¬†your grandmother’s crochet potholders are still hanging by the stove.
  • Updated: original 1960’s appliances were replaced in 1991.
  • Transformed: bought two months ago and flipped with clearance items from Home Depot.
  • Cozy: small and cramped.
  • Charming: small and cramped and has crown moulding.
  • Wall-to-wall carpeting: possibly the original green shag. Even in the bathroom.
  • Must-see: We’ll host five open houses so you can’t possibly avoid stopping by.
  • Elegant: ornate, Louis Quatorze-inspired furnishings and paint colors make it hard for me to visualize my Ikea furniture in the space.
  • Move-in condition: everything looks like it is falling apart, but yes, you can technically inhabit the house because all the utilities and appliances work (for now).
  • With home warranty: we don’t expect those working appliances to continue to do so for very long.
  • Minutes to commuter routes: Takes ten minutes to get to the interstate before you can even start your commute.
  • Walk to shopping and restaurants: house is located on major four-lane highway.
  • Custom/unique: only one person on earth ever thought that was a good idea.
  • Giant price reduction: we overestimated the price by about 30%, and now we’ve realized the error of our ways…now it’s only 20% overpriced.
  • Motivated seller: we overestimated the price by about 30%, and now we’re desperate…now it’s only 20% overpriced.
  • And so much more: we¬†already¬†described every possible redeeming quality in the listing and there’s nothing else worth mentioning.

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My good friend and kindred spirit, Mary-Hall, recently posted on her blog about her woes with Craigslist. We were both totally hooked on Craigslist in Denver and got pretty spoiled with finding all kinds of random steals in a very active market. She and her husband moved from Denver just a couple of months before we did and are now back in their old stomping grounds in Mississippi. Unfortunately, Craigslist in the south isn’t quite as bustling as it is in more populated metro areas, so I totally empathize. Thankfully, DC appears to be just as active as Denver (sorry, MH; wish you were here?…).

Her post on Friday must have gotten me in the mood, because today Bart and I made our first Craigslist transaction here in the DMV. Up until now, we’ve scoped the website for a few items we were interested in purchasing, but it wasn’t until this weekend that an item we were in the market for aligned with a timely and well-located posting. So it was time for finally testing the waters to see how Craigslisters out here roll compared to their western counterparts.

Right from the start, the worst qualities of Craigslist sellers came out. We emailed about an item on Sunday and never got a response….this is absolutely my biggest Craigslist pet peeve of all-time. I mean, you go to the effort of listing an item, and then you don’t want to respond to someone who’s standing here with cash for your item? I just don’t get it. Granted, they could have sold the item before we emailed, but in my humble opinion it’s only common courtesy to reply either way. But that’s just me.

We emailed a second person and got a response (albeit over a day later) that it had sold. But I can cut them some slack as they were probably waiting to actually complete the transaction before telling us it was gone. The third time’s a charm, however. I pounced on a brand new posting just an hour after it hit the site. This person was the cream of the crop as sellers go, responding almost immediately and being willing to meet same-day. She gets an A++ in CL cred.

Fortunately, this item was in our neck of the woods. Bart and I were known to trek all over the Front Range for good deals. Some people won’t drive across town to a different grocery store, but we’d load up and drive to Colorado Springs for a gem (mostly because we enjoyed the trip itself for the entertainment value). We got to know the Denver area really well that way, and we were very comfortable getting around there. Here in DC, however, not only are we still tied to our GPS outside our current haunts, but we also have to battle horrible traffic and congestion to get even a few miles at the worst times of day. This has contributed to some of our reluctance to make a deal up until now. But finding an item relatively close by seemed like a perfect way to start.

We made it on time to the house for our meeting. Evidently she and her husband were moving, so they were selling things they weren’t able to take with them (which is exactly what we did!). We exchanged pleasantries, chatted a bit, paid up, grabbed our loot, and headed out–all in all, exactly the way purchasing something off Craigslist should work. So far, Craigslist here appears to be just about the same as Denver, so I’m excited to make use of it here, especially as we anticipate moving again and setting up home in a new house.

And we are super pleased with the item we purchased. More about that later, but I’ll leave you with a hint of what we bought…

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The DoD just finished the last week of furloughs. While I have enjoyed taking advantage of some of the time off, I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to work as usual, as having people gone all the time was quite disruptive. But for my final day off, Bart and I decided to make the most of the opportunity and get out of town one final time this summer.

After much debating, we decided to head to Virginia Beach. Normally a day at the beach wouldn’t require debate, but we’re having a remarkably cool August, and the forecast was rainy and cloudy instead of typical balmy beach weather. We decided we would just go anyway, weather be darned.

We left out Friday morning and spent the requisite extra thirty minutes in traffic on I-95 south between Springfield and Fredericksburg. Oh my gosh, I officially hate this stretch of interstate. But we finally broke loose and made it through Richmond and over to Norfolk. Traffic there wasn’t much better, but we did see some pretty huge boats at the Naval shipyard and drove through a tunnel under the bay as a huge cargo ship passed above us. Very interesting sensation.

We also passed Witchduck Road (insert Monty Python joke here).

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Our hotel was across the street from the beach, so we spent some time walking down the boardwalk and on the shore. Due to the gloomy weather, that was the extent of our beach activities, though it was still quite pleasurable to get my feet wet in the surf.

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We also enjoyed walking down the main street parallel to the beach, checking out cheap souvenir shops, playing a few rounds of skeeball at an arcade, and eating gallons of frozen-yogurt-by-the-ounce. We had a couple of fun dinners and did a little shopping on Saturday afternoon.

We had plans to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Sunday morning and go home via eastern Maryland, but we decided it wouldn’t be as enjoyable in the dreary rain. So we’ll save that for another day.

Even with less than perfect weather, we had a fun time seeing new sights and getting away from work, DC, house hunting, and the daily grind. With summer drawing to a close and unseasonably cool weather, I’m starting to get jazzed for my favorite time of year–fall.

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